Technology

AMD Stock Pushes Lisa Su to Top of CEO Compensation List

Lisa Su’s $58.5 million pay package as chief executive of Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD) last year was enough to land her at the top of the annual survey of CEO compensation by the Associated Press. Su is the first woman to reach the No. 1 spot.

Her pay package was buoyed by a strong performance by the company’s stock price over the last five years, the AP said. Her compensation for 2019 was more than four times the value of her pay the previous year.

Last year, she received $53 million in stock awards and $3 million in stock options, which vest over several years, the AP said. That was in addition to her base salary of $1 million and a performance-based bonus of $1.2 million.

Second on the compensation list was David Zaslav of Discovery Inc. (NASDAQ: DISCA), who collected $45.8 million for the year. That was less than half of his compensation for the previous year, Variety reported. In 2019, he took home $3 million in salary and $21.8 million in bonuses, as well as stock options valued at $13.5 million, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In third place was Robert Iger, who retired as chief executive of the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) in February but remains on as executive chairman through 2021. His compensation for 2019 was $45.6 million.

Hewson Ranked No. 2 Among Women

The second-highest-paid woman on the list was Marilyn Hewson, who had a $24.4 million compensation package from Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT).

Equilar conducted the analysis of executive pay at S&P 500 companies for the AP. The study, which was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, has been done annually since 2011 and includes only CEOs who have been in their job for at least two full years. That helps to avoid distortions from signing bonuses. But it also means the exclusion of a couple of new chief executives whose compensation exceeded Su’s in 2019.

Focusing the Company’s Efforts

Su, who joined Santa Clara-based Advanced Micro Devices in 2012, is given credit for turning around the company. When she became chief executive in 2014, AMD shares were heading for a record low. The stock price was below $3 a share.

But, Su told CNN Business, she likes a challenge. Shares closed at $52.74 on Wednesday.

“The most important thing for us back in 2014 was, first, choosing the right markets that were good for technology,” Su told CNN Business in March. “It’s not what you do today but it’s really what you do year after year, after year that people pay attention to.”

A big part of AMD’s success is a result of focusing the company’s efforts, Su said.

“It is really important when you’re a technology company to decide what you are really, really good at because you have to be the best, number one or number two,” she said.

Su, who holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focused the company on high-growth areas: building high-performance computing architecture, computer graphics, and graphics processing units. That set AMD up to power crucial next-generation tech, including cloud computing, data centers, artificial intelligence and gaming.

AMD and Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) are dominating the market in these areas, while Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) has stumbled.

Few Women on the CEO List

Twenty women were on the compensation list, compared with 309 men. The median pay for women was $13.9 million, compared with $12.3 million for men. The median pay for women was up 2.3% from last year; for men it was up 5.4%. Women headed just 5% percent of S&P 500 companies.

For the analysis, executive data firm Equilar looked at companies in the S&P 500 index that filed proxy statements with federal regulators between January 1 and April 30, 2019.

Equilar calculated CEO pay by adding salary, bonus, perks, stock awards, stock option awards, deferred compensation and other pay components that include benefits and perks.

Stock awards can either be time-based, or performance-based, meaning the CEO has to meet certain goals before getting them. Equilar used the value of an award on the day it was granted, as recorded in the proxy statement.